Historic complex 36 towers toppled

  • Published
  • By Ken Warren
  • 45th SW Public Affairs
More than 3,600 tons of steel crashed to the surface at Space Launch Complex 36 Saturday morning when the old 209-foot-tall mobile service towers there were toppled as part of the ongoing project to demolish the historic complex. 

Approximately 60 pounds of dynamite strapped to the base of each tower was detonated about 15 minutes apart to knock the venerable towers down. 

Seeing the towers fall were emotional moments for Gary Corfitzson who worked on the Atlas program at SLC 36 for several years. "It was like watching the house you grew up in be knocked down," he said. 

"A majority of the steel will be recycled," said project manager Jonathan Vanho of the 45th Civil Engineer Squadron. The steel that can't be recycled will be taken to the landfill at Cape Canaveral AFS. 

Dormant since 2005, Complex 36 waited for demolition until funds could be allocated for it to take place. "Given the limited demolition funding, the SLC36 demolition efforts were concentrated on facilities that would pose a safety hazard to include both mobile service towers, umbilical towers, and a number of other abandoned supporting facilities," said Mr. Vanho. 

"Coordination is a must; the Cape is an extremely sensitive working environment and therefore required careful coordination with the launch communities, AF, and Contractors," he said. 

SLC 36 was built for the Atlas/Centaur development program and it was operated under NASA's sponsorship from the program's inception until the late 1980s. The site was built and occupied as a single launch pad complex in February 1961 and a second pad was built between February 1963 and July 1964. SLC 36 hosted many historic missions over the years including Surveyor, Mariner, Pioneer and Intelsat. 

In 1989, NASA transferred SLC 36 to the Air Force and General Dynamics for military and commercial space operations. The site was modified to handle Atlas II/Centaur missions. The first commercial Atlas II/Centaur was launched from Pad 36B Dec. 7, 1991. The first military Atlas II/Centaur was launched from Pad 36A Feb. 11, 1992. 

The last launch from Complex 36A was an Atlas IIAS/Centaur carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload on August 31, 2004. This was followed on February 3, 2005 by the final Atlas IIIB/Centaur launch from Complex 36B before the pad was deactivated. In all, the complex supported 68 major launches from Pad 36A and 77 from Pad 36B. 

"Over nearly five decades, Complex 36 was one of the world's most important and versatile space launch sites. Its credits include a whole catalog of NASA missions to the moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter - not to mention vital national security and commercial satellite missions," said Mark Cleary, 45th Space Wing historian.